Fly-in event remembers WWII pilot

Nanton: Pilots come together to share aviation passion

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 11:28 am

The Joe English fly-in on July 26 at the AJ Flying Ranch is held each year in memory of World War Two pilot Joe English
The Joe English fly-in on July 26 at the AJ Flying Ranch is held each year in memory of World War Two pilot Joe English

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It isn’t too often you can hop on a plane to go grab breakfast, but on July 26 that’s exactly what pilots from all over Alberta and Western Canada will be doing.

The 15th annual Joe English Memorial Fly-In is taking place at the AJ Flying Ranch, 4 miles east of Caley beginning at 8 a.m. where pilots will land for a few hours to grab breakfast, talk aviation, tour the museum, and then head back to their home airport.

“People who own their own airplanes like to have some kind of destination to go to, it's like when you jump in your car and you want to go for a cruise, where would you like to go today?” said Carl Kjarsgaard, who is one of the directors of the Nanton Bomber Command Museum of Canada.

Kjarsgaard said the public is welcome to come out and watch as the planes come and go, as there will be a variety of newer model and antique aircrafts at the flying ranch for the occasion.

The event was named after Joe English, who was a Lancaster Bomber pilot in WWII, and who Kjarsgaard said was instrumental in getting the bomber museum started.

“The Lancaster sat beside the highway for years, and then the local guys who were interested in the airplane said look we're either going to sell the bomber, this was in the early 80s, or we're going to build a museum around it,” he said. “Joe English lived in Nanton and he said well I'll volunteer to help, and he did all kinds of good things to help build up the museum and he's one of the founders of the museum, but he's also a Lancaster pilot.

“Everybody respected him over the years and he was a very nice, soft spoken guy who was quietly determined.”

English enjoyed the fly-in event every year where aviation enthusiasts would all get together and tell stories. Kjarsgaard said one of English’s favourite memories was being part of the Manna mission during WWII where instead of dropping bombs, they were able to drop food on to Holland and save the thousands of people who were starving once the Germans had fled the country.

“There were three or four different spots in Holland where different bombers came over and dropped the packages and they helped save thousands of people from starving,” Kjarsgaard said. “So he's one of those select pilots who dropped food to the Dutch at the end of the war, instead of bombing the hell out of Europe, so that was just a little something that he used to talk about all the time.”

When English passed away five years ago, Kjarsgaard said they wanted to find a way to honour a man that had been so instrumental in the museum’s history as well as the event itself.

“He passed away in his 80s and we just said, ‘look, a constant every year is the fly-in and Joe loved to fly, so this is a little something that we can do to remember him.”

The planes are expected to begin arriving at 8 a.m. and usually head back out around 1 or 2 p.m. and Kjarsgaard hopes people will come out both in their cars and their airplanes.

“We'd like to make that invitation to all pilots in the local area and we have a fun time and fellowship and aviation is the common denominator, and we remember Joe English.”

For coordinates of the AJ Flying Ranch or for more information about the event, visit


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